Category Archives: Surgery

Great News!

Great News!

Written Jun 11, 2013 1:05am

So after my last PET scan, I was left feeling worried about that lymph node in my neck that was questionable.  I talked to the doctor about it and we decided to have it removed and tested rather than wait and repeat a PET scan soon, which really probably wouldn’t answer our question anyway.  We needed to really know if it was cancer or not, and so we decided on a little surgery.

Last Tuesday I went under general anesthesia and had 8 lymph nodes removed from the left side of my neck.  (I guess they took more out to make sure they got the correct one.)  We waited a couple of days for the pathology, and received the call on Thursday.
I was so relieved to hear that there was no cancer in those lymph nodes.  I really had been trying to put it out of my mind, but I’m so glad we got a definitive answer and now I won’t have to wonder if that lymph node was malignant or not.
I am sooooo sooooo grateful that I can just continue to be healthy and not in treatment, or worrying about cancer.  One more scar, but now I have peace of mind!!
Looking forward to running the AF Canyon Half Marathon this Saturday!

Update

Update

Written May 2, 2012 10:37pm

I had my final reconstructive surgery about two weeks ago.  Everything went just fine and I am recovering well.  My body is tired, but I am slowly getting back into running and walking.

Last Friday I went up to Huntsman for another echocardiogram, and it showed that my ejection fractions was at about 54-55% (it’s  not super exact).  This was good enough for me to get back on Herceptin, although my doctor was hesitant for me to take more Herceptin.  She feels that my heart has sustained SOME permanent damage from all the chemo and from Herceptin, and that I should probably just be done with it.
The full course is usually for a year, and I am a few months shy of that, but many doctors feel that a full year is not needed to receive the full benefits from Herceptin.  We made an agreement that I would receive Herceptin 4 more times.  The first time was last Friday, and I will have three more treatments three weeks apart.  After that I will be done.  I will also get another echo on my heart before the third treatment to make sure my heart is holding up okay for the last two treatments.
I don’t like the idea of doing something that is causing some damage to my heart, but I know it is a very effective drug for me, and cancer is the biggest danger for me at this point, so I will continue with Herceptin a little while longer.  This has been something we (Branden, Dr. “B”, my cardiologist, and I) have given a lot of thought to.
It’s scary to me, because every time I take Herceptin I actually feel pains in my heart over the next week or two, and that kind of freaks me out.  I feel that my heart is not as strong as it was before I started all of this, and I just want to be the same as I was before all of this.  But I am just trying to finish this battle with cancer once and for all.  I don’t want it to come back, and so I am doing everything I can.
Monday I will have my PET scan.  I will get the results 2 or 3 days later.

Patience

Patience

Written Mar 20, 2012 10:50pm

Last time I wrote I was kind of feeling like I was done with treatment, but for being “done” I sure have been in hospitals a lot lately!

One thing that I wasn’t going to write about, (but decided that I will), is that I had another surgery about two weeks after my hysterectomy.  That was stage 1 of my reconstructive surgery.  It was unclear if the surgeon could get the job done in one surgery or not because of scar tissue, and tight tissue from radiation.  I really kind of got my heart set on being done quickly with the one surgery and just healing at the same time as I was healing from the other surgery.  I just wanted to be done, and start running more and getting ready for my race in June.  BUT, it didn’t work out that way.
I won’t go into all the details, but I have to have a follow up surgery in about a month from now.  And in the meantime, I have actually been way more sore than I thought I would be from a surgery that has absolutely nothing to do with my health, just with putting my body back together.  I definitely underestimated the reconstructive surgery!
On another note, I went up to Huntsman on Friday for my Herceptin.  First I had a mugascan, which I have had several times over the past year, to see how my heart is handling the drug.  Herceptin is hard on the heart, just like Adriamycin was.  I had assumed that my ejection fraction in my heart would improve as I got further away from chemo.  It had gotten up to 55%, and I assumed it would only get better from there, but then it went down to 51% the time before last.  I did another mugascan on Friday, and then met with my doctor.  We talked about how long I would do Herceptin, and she said that I could stay on it for longer than a year if my heart was handling it well.  We didn’t have the results yet from my muga.
Then I went down to the infusion room and waited for my Herceptin.  Fortunately the lab took a long time getting it to me, because then Dr. “B” came down to the infusion room personally (which she never does) and told me that I was not going to be allowed to receive Herceptin for a while.  She said, “We just got the results from your mugascan, my dear, and it is 42%.”
I was so surprised!  That is really bad!  She told me that she was taking me off Herceptin for at least nine weeks, and then we would do another mugascan at that point.  She told me that if I felt dizzy or couldn’t catch my breath, then I should call them immediately.  My face was turning red as she spoke because I felt so scared.  I have been feeling so tired lately, and now I know why.  I got Zometa, the bone strengthening drug, and then went home.
After I talked to Branden about it he looked up some stuff that made me feel a lot better.  My heart should bounce back pretty well since I am not taking Herceptin now.  It definitely should not do any permanent damage, so I just need to be off it until my heart is stronger.  Herceptin is a great drug for fighting cancer, but I may not even have any more cancer in me at this point, and most people don’t take it longer than a year.  So, I want to be able to continue taking it, but I don’t want to ruin my heart in the process!  I will just have to wait and see what happens with my next mugascan.  In the meantime, the good news is that I won’t be going up to Huntsman for 9 weeks!  =)
So, I will have one more surgery in a month, and then hopefully I will have time to get in shape for the half marathon I signed up for.  I really have had a hard time running at all lately, and have mostly just been walking, so I don’t know if I will have enough time to get feeling peppy and be able to run 13 miles by June.  I am going to plan on doing it, and try my best to get some running in, but if it isn’t the best for my health, of course, I won’t do it.  I think there is a good chance I’ll be able to do it though.
I will have my next PET scan at the beginning of May.
We have been getting some really nice weather lately, and I have just been so excited to be running, and done with surgeries, and feeling great.  I know it will come, but I am feeling a little impatient now that I am almost done.  Patience.  That’s a hard one!!

Recovering well

Recovering well

Written Feb 24, 2012 11:10pm

I am recovering well from surgery.  I went to Huntsman today for my Herceptin and Zometa.  A friend of mine who is a patient there is struggling with his chemo.  He is dying, but is trying to prolong his life a few months longer.  His last chemo regimin was taking his hearing, and so he tried a new chemo drug today and was so sick and vomiting in the infusion room.  I always hate it when I see someone really struggling with their chemo.  Some people get so sick from it.  I feel so grateful to be done with chemo, and feel so sad for this friend and his wife.

I am doing really well right now and look forward to being able to run in about 5 weeks.  I was told today that I have a “healthy glow”.  I was so happy to realize how healthy I feel right now that I almost started to cry!
 I have been writing a lot of my experiences from this past year, and am going to continue to write all I can while it is still fresh in my mind.  I have learned so much from these experiences.  It has been kind of emotional for me to write about all of this though, but I feel like it’s something I need to do before I will feel like I can really move on from all of this.
It really is so strange and wonderful to be done with major treatment.  I will continue to update occasionally, especially when I get PET scans, which will be about every 3 months for a while.

Surgery

Surgery

Written Feb 16, 2012 11:54am

I had my hysterectomy/oopherectomy on Valentine’s Day.  I just got home last night.  Everything went well with the surgery, so now I am just getting recovered.  It will be about 6 weeks until I can run again, and about 3 weeks until I am supposed to lift my kids (yeah, right!!)

My port is out!!  I am so happy to have it out.  I have a big scar there now, of course, but at least I don’t have a huge hard lump there anymore!!

Letter to Family and Friends

Letter to Family and Friends

Written Jun 14, 2011 11:55pm

This is a letter I sent to my family and friends a couple of days before I started chemo about 5 weeks ago.  We had made it through our move to Utah, and were getting settled in.  I had been too emotional to talk about this to most people, but finally wanted to unburden myself before beginning treatment by telling everyone I should.  I felt like it would help me mentally “get my game face on” for chemo.  I thought that writing this, and getting it out there, would help me toughen up a little for the battle ahead.

Dear Friends,

I have recently been diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer.  I have had surgery, and will begin chemotherapy on Friday.  Some of you know about this, and some of you don’t.  I am sorry to tell you in this blog if you are hearing about it for the first time.  It has been hard to tell everyone personally all about this, and I took some time this evening to write to my family and I decided to forward that email on to all of you so that you can know what is going on with us.  I love each of you and wanted to share this with you.  Here is the email I sent to my family:

Okay, so I know I have needed to write an email and update you guys on what is going on, etc.., but it has been extremely hard with moving and doing doctor’s appointments, and taking care of our family all at the same time. Plus, it has been good to have a little time to get some perspective on things.

So we went to Huntsman last week, and decided to stick with them (as I thought I would). My doctor is “Dr. B”. She is the medical director for the breast cancer clinic of Huntsman, so she should know her stuff. She also was very kind and a good listener, and had good thoughtful information to give.

I wish she would have had some different diagnosis for me, or a much better prognosis, but my prognosis is still the same. I am not saying this to be negative, but just because I have been told this several times now, and I think it is because they try to be realistic or something with patients. The best description she gave about stage 4 breast cancer was that at some point cancer spreads too much for them to permanently get rid of it. It is possible that the first round of chemo could reduce or even get rid of the cancer that we know about so that it does not even show up on a PET scan, but they feel that on a cellular level it will not all be gone, and that at some point it will come back somewhere. It is very positive if we can “get rid” of it this first time though, because it could be a few years before we deal with anything again.

My course of treatment will be very aggressive. We will do 8 rounds of chemo, two weeks apart. This makes it more powerful when you reduce the time in between rounds. Most places only do it 3 weeks apart, but they have some good drugs to help my white blood cell count go up between treatments so that I can handle the higher intensity of this kind of chemo. I will also have plenty of anti-nausea drugs at my disposal, and they feel certain that I should not be vomiting or anything like that throughout treatment. Fatigue will probably be the biggest issue.

After chemo, we will radiate the areas where I had the lump, and lymph node area, as well as the three areas that have advanced to my bone. This can really help, and can even alleviate pain in those areas. (Although I don’t really have any pain there, just some sensitivity.)

After that I will probably have my ovaries removed, and begin an anti-hormone regimen. This can be a very effective treatment for cancer that has spread to the bone. In fact, one of my options was to begin with this treatment and do chemo later.

I may take Herceptin to counteract the HER-2 positive result I got for my type of cancer. But there is some dispute about that, because I got another test back that says that I am HER-2 negative. That would be good if I was negative, but even if you are negative (it is a sliding scale) you can benefit from this treatment, so we will request to get it anyway. I think Dr. Buys is open to that even though it is a 100,000$ treatment!

I will be on the hormone suppression therapy for the rest of my life, and we will do frequent PET scans to check for cancer and treat it as needed.

So on to how we are feeling about all of this. I say “we” because Branden and I are definitely in this together, and have talked at length about all of this. We have both been very emotional at times through this, but we are also beginning to get more hopeful and trying to be strong for the battle ahead, come what may.

There are some people (1-3%) who actually beat Stage 4 breast cancer long term. But the doctors don’t say it’s curable. There are also those who fight a good fight for many years (20-25)but only about 10% live past 10 years, and about 20% live past 5 years. These are not good odds, but I am similar in many ways to those who have either been cured, or who have lived many years.

I am young, healthy, I eat right and exercise regularly, and I am not having any symptoms to begin with. I am optimistic, and will be tough throughout treatment. (Some people simply wimp out of treatment at some point and give up, and that is not an option for me.) My cancer is stage 4 because it has spread beyond the lymph nodes, but I would say “barely”. It is only in three spots, and it is better that it has spread to the bone than to any of my organs. The types that occasionally beat this or live for a longer time are usually ones that have spread to bone only. Also, Branden and I are being very proactive in seeking out the latest and best treatments for this. I am preparing for the side effects in all the ways I can, and I am actually wanting to get going on this treatment. BRING IT ON!!! I have a wonderful husband who is the love of my life, and 4 beautiful children who are young and need me for a long time still. Branden and I started this family together, and I am determined to raise these children with him! I believe that it is possible to beat this cancer, and if anyone can, I believe I can, if it is in Heavenly Father’s plan. I am tough physically, spiritually, emotionally, and I am surrounded by love and have the best support around me possible.

This whole thing has turned my world upside down. I have always been pretty introspective, but it is another thing to have my mortality hanging by a thread. I know that we are all mortal, but I don’t normally think about it too often. It is a good thing to think about, because it makes us want to live our lives in the way that we really want to. I don’t want to go on a big European vacation or anything like that, I just want to raise my kids in the best way I can, have a happy relationship with Branden, and do some good in this world. I want to enjoy Alec, Lily, Max, and Macy more, and I want to actually follow through more with some of my good intentions. I want to do whatever Heavenly Father has planned for me. I don’t feel like my mission in life is complete yet, and I feel like I have much good I can do with the rest of my life. I think this will just be a really good refining process, and I know we all have to go through difficult things in life to help us come closer to what God wants us to be. I love my Heavenly Father with all my heart, and I trust in Him completely. I love each of you reading this email, and I will do my best to be brave through all of this. I feel that I have many more years to come in my life, but I just wanted to share some of these thoughts with you.

Thank you for all your love and prayers. A lot of good can come from difficult things, and I see a lot of that already in the outpouring of love and kindness from each of you and from many more people around me. It is a good example to me.

Love,

Denise